The Eagles are turning out to be quite the unhospitable hosts.
Columbia has won its three games in the Columbia-Freeburg Boys Christmas Basketball Tournament by an average of 32 points thus far, as Freeburg was the latest victim falling 64-34 in the Gold Bracket semifinals Tuesday night.
“Our athleticism and speed and pressure are going to wear on you,” said Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom. “In all 10 of our wins this season we’ve had a run at some point in time to decide the game.
“Hopefully we can have one of those big runs again tomorrow night against Triad.”
The Eagles will take on Triad in the championship game Wednesday night at 7 p.m. The Knights were 55-43 winners over Civic Memorial in the other semifinal.
“Triad has a very good player in Noah Moss, he’s already scored 1,000 points in his career,” Sandstrom said. “We have to know exactly where he is on the floor, we can’t give him anything easy tomorrow night.”
It didn’t take long for the Eagles to jump out in front of Freeburg.
The Midgets got a bucket by Will Berger to open the game, but Columbia would score 12 unanswered points to build a 10-point lead with two minutes left to play in the first frame.
The Eagles pushed that lead to 20 points following Ryan Gudeman’s 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to play in the first half, and a layup by Jonathon Holmes at the halftime buzzer gave Columbia a 40-18 lead at the intermission.
“Ryan, Jordan (Holmes) and Jon will tell you they were all a step slow last night and I know all three of those guys are big-time competitors, so they were ready to go tonight,” said Sandstrom.
Gudeman led all players with 25 points, all coming in the first three quarters. Jonathan Holmes added 12 points for the Eagles as Drew Huebner had 10.
“Gudeman almost outscored Freeburg tonight, I think he was down 2 at the end of the third quarter,” Sandstrom said. “Ryan had it going tonight and his teammates were able to find him.
“Our guys will be jazzed up, gassed up and ready to go tomorrow night,” the coach added. “I’ve got six seniors in the locker room that not only want to win back-to-back championships, they want to do it on their home floor.”
In the other Gold semifinal, Triad went 6-6 from the free throw line in the final 1:17 to hold off Civic-Memorial 55-43. The Knights led by as many as 15 points in the final frame before the Eagles went on a 12-3 run late in the game to get as close as six points. Noah Moss led Triad with 21 points, which included a 6-7 effort from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. Beau Barbour added 14 points for the Bulldogs. David Lane ended with 11 points to pace Civic-Memorial.
Freeburg will take on Civic-Memorial in the third place game at 5:30 p.m.
Alton-Marquette knocked off Sparta 66-42 in the first Silver semifinal of the day. Shandon Boone paced the Explorers with 21 points, as Ben Sebacher added 13 points and Reagan Snider 12. The Bulldogs got 13 points apiece from Devin Brown and Bryan Lowery.
Waterloo used a 23-7 advantage in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat Piasa-Southwestern 48-45 in the Silver semifinal. Griffin Lenhardt and Ben Huels combined for 21 of the Bulldogs’ 23 fourth-quarter points, as the two led the team in scoring with 18 and 11 points, respectively. Collin Baumgartner paced the Birds with 19 points.
Sparta and Piasa will battle for seventh place at 2 p.m. as Waterloo and Marquette will square off for fifth place at 4 p.m.
Lebanon knocked off Lovejoy 62-32 in Bronze action. Noah Reinneck led four players in double figures for the Greyhounds with 14 points. Derrick Guthrie added 12 points, Isaac Jones chipped in with 11 points and Logan Schieppe 10.
In the other Bronze semifinal, Valmeyer defeated Dupo 61-42. Owen Miller paced the Pirates with 22 points, as Vaughn Larsen scored 12 points. Austin Francis led Dupo with 21 points.
Dupo and Lovejoy will battle for 11th place at 11 a.m. Wednesday as Lebanon and Valmeyer will play for ninth at 12:30 p.m.